ON MAY 10,the Charlotte Hornets hired James Borrego as their head coach, making the 40-year-old former Spurs assistant the first Latino to hold that position full-time in the 72-year history of the NBA.
When I got the Hornets job, I was emotional, I was excited, and I was thankful. There are so many people who helped guide me, steer me and push me to this moment. My high school coaches, Mike Brown and John Whisenant. Pop and all the coaches and players I worked with during my time in San Antonio. Monty Williams. Jacque Vaughn. My wife, Megan, and our kids. My mom, Lydia, who raised me by herself. I know it wasn't just me.
I'd been disappointed a couple times before. Not getting the Orlando job, getting close on the Houston job, getting close on the Memphis job. All that disappointment really fueled me. Until the moment happens, until you hear the words, "You're our guy," it's just not real.
I'm proud to be part of an NBA family that values diversity and values people who come from all walks of life. I'm happy to be one of them. I'm proud of where I come from, who I am, and how I was raised in Albuquerque—in a predominantly Hispanic culture. I'm thankful to be the league's first Hispanic coach, and I want to be an inspiration for young men and women, to show you can be anything you want to be. It doesn't matter where you're from, how you were brought up, the color of your skin. That's the lens I look at this through.
There are moments when I look back and think, How did I get here? I couldn't get a scholarship out of high school. I was a walk-on at the University of San Diego. Later, I was a graduate assistant at USD making no money. Nobody would hire me. I pounded on more than 50 doors around Southern California begging coaches for a job. I would have done anything. I would have worked for free. I would have lived in a dorm. Those closed doors really motivated me to keep going. And that's what prepared me to be here today. I'm fueled by that disappointment—and I'm fueled by the resiliency of my mother.
My mom was a single parent. She worked two, three, four jobs to put food on the table, to get me into basketball leagues, to put me on a travel team. She made it work, and I never felt like I was missing out or I was lacking anything. She made me feel loved, valued and important. She never made excuses for her situation, she always just figured things out. I've carried that with me my whole life.
The value of my Hispanic heritage to me is really built around family. How we love each other, how we value each other. Whatever we need from each other, we're there. That was a big part of my upbringing. Not too many people know about New Mexico, but it has a unique range of Hispanic culture. The food. The architecture. New Mexico is a source of pride for me. And there's a sense of family that runs throughout that state.
Our game has become such a global game. There's nothing like sports to unite people. Nations look to the NBA as an example. We're a league with a voice, leading the charge on inclusion and diversity. I'm an example of the NBA opening up to more people. I'm proud to be a part of that.
I really don't think about myself as the league's first Hispanic coach. As I climbed the coaching ranks, my focus was always just on getting better. I never thought about my heritage, my last name or where I'm from. I've never really sat back to think about how this all happened. I'm proud, but I don't want to be satisfied with where I am now. I want to be a valuable part of the community in Charlotte. I want to lead this group. And most of all, I want to win games.
"THERE'S NOTHING LIKE SPORTS TO UNITE PEOPLE. THE NBA IS A LEAGUE WITH A VOICE, LEADING THE CHARGE ON INCLUSION."